Explaining PAS’s Dominance in Kelantan
About the publication
The Islamic political party Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (Parti Islam Se-Malaysia, PAS) has governed the state of Kelantan on the northeastern coast of peninsular Malaysia for most of Malaysia’s post-independence history.
Until 2020, PAS functioned as an opposition party at the federal level, going against the government led by its long-time nemesis the politically stronger and better resourced United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). The David-versus-Goliath story has made PAS’s longevity and durability in Kelantan all the more impressive for having endured decades of marginalization by the federal government. This has to an extent led to the state’s laggard developmental growth and poor socio-economic indicators.
PAS has often been portrayed by the mainstream media as an anachronistic and extremist party ill-equipped to cope with, much less solve, the myriad challenges faced by modern society.
Notwithstanding PAS’s shortcomings, this article provides an analysis of the factors that have allowed the party to remain in power in Kelantan for so long. It argues that after winning back Kelantan from UMNO in 1990, PAS transformed itself into a modern, well-oiled political machine, particularly when it comes to socializing its agenda to the people of Kelantan and reaching out to many out-of-state Kelantan voters.